British man in ‘Qatar football shirt claim’ charged in UAE, calls for release mounts
A British man, who claimed to have been harassed and detained in the United Arab Emirates for wearing a Qatar football shirt during the AFC Asian Cup, has been charged for making false statements, said Emirati officials.
Ali Essa Ahmed, a dual Sudanese-British citizen, was accused of wasting police time after he reported getting beaten up by Emirati fans for supporting the Qatari team, the UAE embassy in London said in a statement.
“The police took him to the hospital where a doctor who examined him concluded that his injuries were inconsistent with his account of the event and appeared to be self-inflicted,” the embassy said, according to Al Jazeera.
Ahmed, 26, from Wolverhampton and an Arsenal fan, was in the UAE on holiday when he attended Qatar’s group match against Iraq on January 22, his friend Amer Lokie, said.
According to Lokie, his friend was detained and assaulted for wearing a football jersey that promoted Qatar at the match in Abu Dhabi. Showing sympathy for Qatar is punishable in the UAE with a jail term of up to 15 years.
Meanwhile, the detained man’s friends have called on the UAE government to allow him to return home safely.
They are appealing to the UK’s Foreign Office through diplomatic channels, reported Gulf Times.
Initially, the UAE embassy said it was investigating the circumstances of the arrest. After other media picked up the story, it issued a further statement saying Ahmad went to the police station in Sharjah claiming he had been harassed and beaten up by UAE national football fans for cheering the Qatar team.
Lokie said: “There’s no way Ali would’ve beaten himself up and then gone to the police station seeking media attention. When I spoke to him on the phone, he sounded in a bad state, and he was asking us to get him released and safely back to the UK. We’re trying to raise the profile of his case in the hope that it’ll lead to his release and safe return to the UK.”
Radha Stirling, CEO of advocacy group Detained in Dubai, said this was ‘not the first time an official government version of events drastically differed from that provided by an expatriate in UAE custody.’
Ahmad’s reported detention comes more than two months after British academic Matthew Hedges was released by the UAE by a presidential pardon after spending more than six months in prison in an espionage case.
“What we know is that the UAE does prosecute anyone who expresses sympathy for Qatar in any way,” Stirling said.
“It’s a pattern with the UAE and other Gulf states to issue official denials and counter-narratives that absolve the government of wrongdoing,” she added.